By Bob Zientara
When the first customer stepped up to the concession stand window at the new Dallas Village Park pavilion on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, during the annual Oktoberfest celebration, it was the symbolic end of a volunteer fundraising project that dates back more than half a dozen years.
The new building was completed earlier this year by Prairie Farm-based The Chipper Handyman. It includes a kitchen and indoor dining area lined with knotty pine siding, modern washrooms, and a covered picnic area. Surrounded by new sidewalks, the building and picnic area are all on one level, and accessible to the disabled.
The pavilion’s role in the village of Dallas starts this year. But the history of how and why the project began goes back to the summer of 2013.
It was six years ago – during July 2016 -- that Barron County hosted a two-day agricultural exhibition known as Farm Technology Days.
Held at the Breezy Hill Dairy, owned by Alex and Mary Olson, 147 16th St., just south of Dallas, Farm Technology Days drew tens of thousands of visitors to Barron County from all over the state of Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest.
After the event ended, Barron County officials worked with a steering committee to add up and distribute Farm Technology Days profits to communities and/or nonprofit organizations which were judged to be deserving of financial assistance.
In December 2015, the village of Dallas received a $7,500 “challenge grant” from the steering committee. The grant would be awarded if the community could match it with money from other sources, including fundraisers and donations.
A committee of local citizens was formed to work on making plans to improve the village park and obtain the matching donations.
The group soon decided to expand its plans to include replacing the park concessions stand and washrooms, as well as other projects like resurfacing the park tennis court and, eventually, building a fishing pier on the Pine Creek flowage that runs along the west side of the park.
A year later, with money from fundraisers and additional donations already in hand, the citizens’ group filled out an application for a Knowles-Nelson Stewardship grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The grants are made available to local governments and nonprofit groups to help pay for a variety of projects, including “the acquisition and development of local parks.”
Grants were announced the following year, in 2017. Unfortunately, Dallas was not among the successful applicants.
But the Dallas volunteers tried again, later the same year. After state authorities reviewed the application, it was approved in May 2018. The grant provided the committee with $53,500 – in addition to $65,000 that had already been raised by local volunteers over the previous three years.
The volunteer group hoped to begin construction on the park building during the 2018 construction season. But by the time all the planning was done, it wouldn’t have been possible to finish construction in time for last year’s annual Oktoberfest celebration.
The group waited one more winter before starting the project in spring 2019, when the former concession stand was demolished. Construction was complete by mid-August 2019.